Sunday, December 19, 2010

Globalization and its effects

Globalization refers to global alliance and reliance in the matters of trade, culture and economy. It heavily banks upon worldwide expansion and integration. Due to amazing innovation and rapid advancement in the field of information technology, the world has literally shrunk into a village today. Globalization has virtually swept away the political boundaries.

No distance is now big enough and no country or nation really foreign! Due to the staggering volumes of business and the astounding profits that come with it, even the most reluctant countries have opened up their doors to globalization. The ramifications of such a revolutionary change in policy are much bigger than one may think. The profound consequences and affects of globalization are already visible. In today’s world, globalization affects every area of our lives be it law, education, religion, medicine or technology.

Since, globalization is largely about making loads of money and quick profits; utilitarianism is its chief ruling principle. The negative impact of such a highly profit-oriented new economy is colossal indeed. According to Bole, “‘no long term’ has become an apt slogan in today's economy of short stints and contingent work. What does that do to the social bonds of trust, loyalty, and mutual dependence?”

Globalization has brought in a new kind of oppression in the form of flexibility, contracts, projects and ever-changing working conditions, instead of long-term steady jobs and income. The availability of cheaper labor abroad and the outsourcing are some of the factors that have made job security a thing of distant past.
Globalization causes erosion of jobs in the country and fuels unemployment. Since, the employers often threaten to take jobs abroad to save money, millions of employees in this country constantly face the fear of pay cuts and lay offs. Service and white-collar jobs are particularly vulnerable to this kind of a risk. Such an unpredictable scenario can cause serious emotional unrest and can disorientate an individual.

This may also lead to a corrosion of character that can have a far-reaching affect on society’s overall health. “How do we decide what is of lasting value in ourselves in a society which is impatient, which focuses on the immediate moment? How can long-term goals be pursued in an economy devoted to the short term? How can mutual loyalties and commitments be sustained in institutions which are constantly breaking apart or continually being redesigned?” (Sennett, 1998, p.9).

Globalization is also responsible for the ever-rising gap between the affluent few and the impoverished majority. The resulting feeling of despair and resentment can never augur well for the society. Globalization makes big multinationals and corporations powerful enough to seriously interfere with the policymaking of a country. Since, they can call shots; the interest of the common man tends to get seriously jeopardized. Globalization has also been criticized for contributing to the horrors of ecological risks and rising global inequalities.

No nation can remain untouched by the long-term fallout of such a narrow policy of short-term gain. Courtesy globalization, some of the American multinational corporations have bigger revenue than the total GDP of some of the countries of the world! Such glaring contrasts can very well prompt a terrorist group to instigate an insidious attack on America.

For long, globalization was thought to have one way impact on culture i.e. the impact of the U.S. culture on smaller nations and economies. It is only in the recent present that America has started to realize that globalization is a sharp double edged weapon that cuts both ways. Cultural identity is a sum total of one’s unique personality, traits and a sense of recognition that one gets out of one’s identification with one’s race, religion and nationality.

This unique cultural identity is hard to preserve in the face of multiculturalism, consumerism, secularism and materialism propagated by globalization. The founding fathers of America welcomed those immigrants who could assimilate in American culture. Folke points out, “globalization has weakened the process of assimilating immigrants and the concept of American citizenship itself.”

Global economy or globalization has not made America economically indestructible or insulated from financial risks. Since, wealthy countries like America tend to invest heavily in the developing countries; any financial crisis there triggers a cascading effect on the economy back home. Hence, global economy has made the life of small investors and pensioners more hazardous than ever before. There money in the bank, stocks or mutual funds is far less secure than it ever was. It is high time that we give precedence to values in life over material things.

It is incumbent upon us to save ourselves and the future generations from the devastating affects of globalization. This resolve alone would “determine whether the 21st century marks the descent of our species into an anarchy of greed, violence, deprivation, and environmental destruction that could well lead to our own extinction. Or the emergence of prosperous life-centered civil societies in which all people are able to live without want in peace with one another and in balance with the planet” (Korten).


Bole, William. (2000,October). Center Explores Globalization's Impact on U.S. Cultures. National Jesuit News . Available:

Fonte, John. (2007, April 28). American Conservatism Meets Globalization: The Challenges from the Transnational Left and Transnational Right. Hudson Institute. Available: SocietySpeech.pdf

Korten, David. C. (2001). When Corporations Rule the World. San Francisco: Berrett

Sennett, R. (1998). The Corrosion of Character - The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism. New York: W.W. Norton

Author & copyright owner: Academic READ MORE!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Critical Appreciation & Literary Analysis of Frost's "After Apple-Picking"

Editor’s Note: After Apple-Picking is Robert Frost’s one of the greatest lyrics. It blends the myth of the Fall with the inevitable and inescapable consequences of modern science. The “two-pointed ladder” is a symbolic rise of man into the world of science & technology eventually leading to a wasteland of emptiness, uncertainty and endless struggle. The poem, in keeping with Frost’s characteristic style, effectively portrays a continuous clash between action and awareness inhibiting man from arriving at any truly sustaining conclusion.

On the simplest narrative level, “After Apple-Picking” describes how, after a strenuous day of apple-picking, the speaker dreams in which his previous activities return to him 'magnified', blurred and distorted by memory and sleep. On a deeper level, however, it presents us with an experience in which the world of normal consciousness and the world that lies beyond it meet and mingle. 'I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight', says the narrator, and this strangeness, the 'essence of winter sleep', is something he shares with the reader. The dreamy confusion of the rhythm, the curiously 'echoing' effect of the irregular, unpredictable rhyme scheme, the mixing of tenses, tones, and senses, the hypnotic repetition of sensory detail: all these things promote a transformation of reality that comes, paradoxically, from a close observation of the real, its shape, weight, and fragrance, rather than any attempt to soar above it:

Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of the ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.

As usual, in this poem Frost hovers between the daylight world of commonsense reality and the dream world of possibility, the voices of sense and of song, the visions of the pragmatist and the prophet, the compulsions of the road and the seductions of the woods. This time, however, he appears to belong to both realms, rather than hold back from a full commitment to either. Dualism is replaced by an almost religious sense of unity here; and the tone of irony, quizzical reserve, completely disappears in favor of wonder and incantation.

"After Apple-Picking" has often been compared to Keats’ "Ode to Autumn," as if it were primarily a celebration of harvest. But its elevated diction (quite distinct from anything else in the book) as well as its images, mood and theme, all suggest a greater affinity with Keats' :Ode to a Nightingale." In that weary, drowsy poem the speaker longs to escape through art, symbolized by the nightingale, from the pain of the real world and wants to melt into the welcome oblivion of death:

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk,

Frost's narrator, standing on the earth but looking upward, is also suspended between the real and the dream world:

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill.

The long and short lines, the irregular rhyme scheme, the recurrent participles (indicating work), the slow tempo and incantatory rhythm all suggest that repetitive labor has drained away his energy. The perfume of the apples - equated through "essence" with profound rest - has the narcotic, almost sensual effect of ether. Frost's speaker, like Keats', is suffused with drowsy numbness, yet enters the visionary state necessary to artistic creation:

Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough.

The glassy piece of ice - which distorts, transforms and makes the familiar seem strange - is, like Keats' nightingale, a symbol of art. In his dream state (the word "sleep" occurs six times in the poem), and he rhythmically sways on the ladder when the boughs bend with his weight:

Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear,

As the apples are gathered - and the poem written - he becomes both physically and mentally exhausted:

For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.

He needs to regenerate himself, like the hibernating woodchuck, by a long, deathlike winter sleep, so he will be ready to reenter the poet's dream world and achieve another spurt of creativity. In "After Apple-Picking" Robert Frost achieves a perfect fusion of pastoral and poetic labor.

“After Apple-Picking” has become so familiar and revered that it is difficult to recognize its strangeness. But it would probably seem familiar in any case; it is a prime example of how even the very great poems of Frost can induce a kind of ease about their deeper intensities. It is a proud poem, as if its very life depends upon a refusal to justify itself by any open evidence of what it is up to. The apparent "truth" about the poem is that it is really concerned with the actualities of its announced subject. But is that "truth" even residually enough if, not thinking so, one takes the risk of burdening the poem with "more than the truth"?

Brower has written meticulously about its rhythmic form, but he has not let himself feel the deeper pulsations in its metaphors. There are energies in the poem as well as a dream of potential experience that include but are passionately larger than that recorded in his otherwise useful observation that "From the opening lines, apparently matter-of-fact talk falls into curious chain-like sentences, rich in end-rhymes and echoes of many sorts" until "memories of waking fact and their sleepy distortions become impossible to tell apart" (The Poetry of Robert Frost).

Once again, "The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows." It is a muscular and active knowing, and should not be confused with Santayana's rather too fastidious proposition that "The artist is a person consenting to dream of reality." Consent is not at issue - as if reality were propositioning us. What is required is toil and labor, the exertion of body and mind necessary to bring anything to birth. Labor, again, is both one of the unfortunate consequences of the Fall and a way of overcoming them, of transforming them into fortunate ones. The "dream" that "labor knows" in Frost's poems of work is often "sweet" because it frequently involves images of the birth or rebirth of the self, of redemption offered those who try to harvest reality.

"After Apple-Picking" is a dream vision, and from the outset it proposes that only labor can penetrate to the essential facts of natural life. These include, in this case, the discovery of the precarious balances whenever one season shifts to another, the exhaustions of the body, and the possible consequences of "falling," which are blemish and decay. When the penetration of "facts" or of matter occurs through labor, the laborer, who may also be the poet, becomes vaguely aware that what had before seemed solid and unmalleable is also part of a collective "dream" and partakes of myth.

This is in part what is signified by Emerson's paradigm at the beginning of "Language" in Nature: "1. Words are signs of natural facts. 2. Particular natural facts are symbols of particular spiritual facts. 3. Nature is the symbol of spirit." The penetrating power of labor can be evinced in "apple-picking" or in writing or reading about it, and any one of these activities brings us close to seeing how apples and all that surround them can be symbolic of spirit. The easiness of voice movement and vocabulary in the poem will seem at odds with deeper possibilities only to those who do not share Frost's perception, following Emerson and Thoreau, that the possibilities are simply there to be encountered. When at the very outset the apple-picker remembers "My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree," he is, without any self-consciousness, committed by "natural facts" to a mythological or symbolic statement, as he is immediately thereafter in the further "fact" that the ladder is pointing "toward heaven still." "Heaven" is not the destination awaiting anyone who climbs ladders, but it can become part of his consciousness of destinations.

A version of this image will appear later in "Directive," where "The height of the adventure is the height / Of country where two village cultures faded / Into each other. Both of them are lost. / And if you're lost enough to find yourself/ By now, pull in your ladder road behind you. . . ." But this "ladder" is essentially lateral. The journey is back into time, into geological and cultural debris. Though I would not, with Helen Bacon, think that the two towns refer to the twin cults of Apollo and Dionysus, the poem lets itself be read as an attempted journey to poetic and personal sources where a self can be discovered this side of heaven. By comparison, the ladder in "After Apple-Picking" is quite graphically vertical, and it points to a destination beyond itself. It is, also, a ladder that is not "pulled in"; it is "still" - "still" there, "still" to be climbed again, and "still" pointing as if, despite its being "long," it merely directs us to a place toward which it provides the initial steps. It sticks "through" a tree and not against it.

And yet for all these suggestions, the ladder is very much a real one. The phrase "two-pointed ladder" is itself less directly metaphorical than is "ladder road" of "Directive." In a context where every word seems so much by nature to be metaphorical, "two-pointed" trembles with possibilities of meaning that adhere to its very essence. The phrase could signify metaphor itself and reminds us that for Frost metaphor was the true source and method of all thinking. Not only do we think in metaphors that are contrived for the purpose, like "ladder road"', more than that, we cannot so much as use a word or a phrase without committing ourselves, often unknowingly, to metaphor and therefore to some form of unconscious "thought." Thinking in Frost is metaphoric or "two-pointed," and it directs us at last to what is beyond the metaphor, to things we cannot "know" and whereof, as Wittgenstein suggested, we should not speak.

A "two-pointed ladder" is very much like a metaphor as Frost describes it. Its two terms head in a parallel and mutually supporting direction; ultimately, however, the relationship comes to an end or leaves off; the metaphor necessarily breaks down. The progress or movement of analogy brings us to something beyond it, like faith or a belief. Metaphor, that is, both controls us and propels us into exaggerations, into the idea of God, for instance, with whom we enter into a relationship, as Frost says at the end of "Education by Poetry," in order "to believe the future in - to believe the hereafter in."

As in much of Frost's prose the syntax here is aggressively vernacular and irregular, and the effect is to make the word "in" a part of the verb. By a relationship to God, about which we cannot say very much and have little to show, we can, however, try to bring the future and the hereafter "in" close, to bring it "in," as by climbing ladders for the picking of apples, from remoteness or abstraction. The image of the ladder and the sky talks about metaphor, about thinking and about the hereafter or the future. The sky, as if, waits at the end of the ladder. "We still ask boys in college to think, as in the nineties, but we seldom tell them what thinking means; we seldom tell them that it is just putting this and that together; it is just saying one thing in terms of another. To tell them is to set their feet on the first rung of a ladder the top of which sticks through the sky."

In his rambling drowsiness and his driftings among his own obsessive experience, the apple-picker is "thinking" only less consciously than is the poet in his more directly exploratory use of language.

From the outset the materials of the poem belong to the apple-picker: it is "my" and not "a" ladder that is sticking through the trees, and in Frost's formula the applepicker's "saying" of one thing in terms of another is "thinking" even though he might not credit himself with doing so. Indeed, the conceptual frame of the poem, if so heavy a phrase is appropriate to it, is held together by the way "dream" gets stated in terms of waking experience, waking experience in terms of "dream." This is an occasion when the precondition of metaphor itself seems to be that the normal distinction between dreaming and waking be suspended. Even the verb tenses of the poem contribute to this suspension: before he begins his last day of apple-picking he "could tell" while awake "What form my dreaming was about to take." It is as if he woke before work into a kind of reality that had all the strangeness of dream, and he looks to sleep after work almost in the hope of dispelling the dream:

I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.

There is both daring and genius in the lines that follow: "But I was well/ Upon my way to sleep before it fell." So confused are states of consciousness here that perhaps we are to think that he slept all through the day of work, perhaps he dreamed the day itself, with its "hoary grass." This grass could be real, "hoary" in the sense that it is coated white with morning frost; or it could be other-worldly grass, "hoary" in the sense of "ancient," part of a mythic world derived from the Bible and Milton. We are not to decide which is which; we are instead meant to equivocate.

The larger possibilities are made inextricable in our, and in his, experience from smaller, more detailed ones. Thus, "essence" can mean something abstract, like an attribute, or even a spirit that is fundamental to winter nights, and it is also something very specific to apple-picking, the perfume of a harvest. So wonderfully does the language of the poem subvert any easy regulation that some readers might want to think of the "perfume" in Herbert's "life" or in King's "Contemplation upon Flowers" or in Frost's own "Unharvested" which emanates from a soul that has sanctified itself. So, too, with "harvest." It is called a "great harvest," and while "great" can refer to numbers - "There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch" - it soon begins to accumulate other than quantitative implications in its linkage to the word "cherish," the phrase "not let fall," and the reminder, in the suddenly exalted phrasing of "struck the earth" (when the word "ground" might have been used), that the ladder was pointed not at the "sky" but "toward heaven."

The phrasing has a Marvellian reticence, only a bit less pronounced than in "The Silken Tent" where the "central cedar pole" is "its pinnacle to heavenward."
The apple-picker (and Frost) seems almost reluctantly involved in these implications. Perhaps that is one reason why he is "overtired" of a harvest "I myself desired." The intensity of labor has brought him in touch with a vocabulary of "apples," "trees," "scent," "ladders," "harvests," of ascents and descents that make it impossible for him not to say one thing in terms of another. To speak of apples is to speak of the Fall and the discovery of the benefits from it that both require and repay human toil. The only explicitly metaphorical statement in the entire, highly metaphoric poem - the only time the apple-picker tries directly to generalize his experience ("One can see . . ."), and the only spot where he admits to a sense of audience ("As I describe . . . ) - occurs at the end:

One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

It is appropriate to the whole intention of the poem that where the apple-picker sets out wakefully to accomplish what he has all along been doing in a daze, unconsciously - to make metaphors and to generalize on his experience - the result is a tangle of confusions. He is a successful "poet" only when he does not try to be. Obviously, the "woodchuck" could not "say" anything, and its capacity to make a metaphoric discrimination between its own and human sleep is rendered comic by the speaker's ascription to himself of the power only to "describe" the coming on of sleep.

"Just some human sleep"

In his overtired state the apple-picker might indeed want a sleep equivalent to the hibernation of a woodchuck rather than a "human sleep." His sleep will be human precisely because it will be a disturbed, dream- and myth-ridden sleep. Human sleep is more than animal sleep for the very reason that it is bothered by memories of what it means to pick apples. After that famous picking in the Garden of Eden, human life, awake or sleeping, has been a dream, and words are compacted of the myths we dream of about the fall and redemption of souls.

Richard Poirier Robert Frost: The Work of Knowing.
Jeffrey Meyers Robert Frost: A Biography.
Robert Gray, American Poetry of the Twentieth Century. READ MORE!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Critical Analysis of Robert Frost's "Design"

Editor's Note: Lionel Trilling dubbed Robert Frost as " a terrifying poet" for Frost's poetry tends to portray man as a helpless pygmy in front of the huge might and complexity of the world that surrounds him. Man can neither look far nor deep enough to understand and make sense of the incomprehensible complexity and design that pervades & permeates the world. Lionel's may not be an entirely fair or an appropriate description of Frost's poetry but the fact remains that Frost is far more realistic and blunt in stating the truth than most other poets. Frost knows that expecting evil at dark places alone is being naive. One may be caught unawares even at the most unexpected places. Think not that black is the lone color representing evil as white too has the power to disturb & startle you unexpectedly.

"Design" is a poem of finding evil in innocence, a song of experience, though the voice is hardly that of Blake’s child-like singer. At first we hear the cheerfully observant walker on back-country roads: ‘I found a dimpled . . .’ The iambic lilt adds a tone of pleasant surprise: ‘I found a dimpled darling’—‘Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet!’ But in ‘spider’ the voice betrays itself, and in ‘fat’ and ‘white’ the dimpled creature appears less charming. On a small scale the first line, like the whole poem, builds up a joke in tone, rhythm, and image that grows into a ‘joke’ of another sort.

In the poem, the joking discovery develops gradually through a series of contradictory pictures. ‘A white heal-all’ suggests purity and safety, though the color echoes the white of the swollen spider. A satin-white moth has its charm, too, a party-going creature poised like Wordsworth’s butterfly on its flower; but ‘rigid’ is too frozen, too easily reminiscent of rigor mortis or the stiff shining satin of a coffin. In the aside of the next three lines, the speaker gives away his joke, but he does it jokingly, again partly by tricks of rhythm. First there is the very correct iambic on line four in exactly ten syllables, every other one of which must be stressed, a little as in doggerel.:

Assorted characters of death and blight . . .

The plain truth of the statement takes on a cheerful sing-song quality, an effect increased in the next line by reversing the stress and omitting the short in ‘Mixed ready.’ The tone now becomes quite jaunty, but ‘right’ hovers on a pun for ‘rite,’ as the poet mixes a brew worthy of the Weird Sisters, Shakespeare’s most evil images of evil. The adding of unstressed syllables speeds up and lightens the next line to soften the ugliness of what is being said:
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth . . .

And with
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,

More oblique joking is resumed in images of springtime freshness (‘snow drop,’ ‘flower-like,’ we hear). But the spider is there, and the fragility of ‘froth’ hardly conceals the link with venom. A surface of elegant gaiety is kept up, however, through symmetry of sound, as o’s and I’s, alliterated syllables, and apparent compounds are balanced in each half of the verse. Again we are brought up short with ‘dead wings,’ and if kites are fun, a ‘kite’ is also a bird of prey, and ‘a paper kite’ is another image of death-like rigidity.

The sextet brings the expected change in tone, now no longer easily observing and half-singing though in mockery, but self-questioning and increasingly serious. The first question (‘What had the flower to do . . .’) sounds like ordinary annoyance at a face that doesn’t fit in, though ‘white’ out a place begins to seem like ‘black.’ The next question (‘What brought the kindred spider . . .’), in a voice of lost innocence, brings a new note and a harsher irony with ‘kindred’ (as if the sweet flower and the spider had conspired to arrive at exactly that height and place). ‘Steered’ is more sinister, and with the last question ironic puzzlement turns into vision:

What but design of darkness to appall?—

Alliteration picks out salient impressions to give older theological and Emersonian arguments a reverse twist—‘Design, yes—but for evil.’ But the natural theologian pauses—he is only asking, not asserting—and takes a backward step:
If design govern in a thing so small.

It may after all be absurd to see so much in a flower, a moth, and a spider. But the ‘if’ stands out oddly because of the reversal of stress and because of the pause for the loss of a syllable,

If design || govern . . .

There is a glimmer of a further joke: ‘If design govern in anything at all . . .’—the subjunctive and a second reversal of stress alert us to the doubt. The soothingly humorous hesitation points to something many readers may find less agreeable than design of darkness, to no order whatever.

Few poems by Frost are more perfectly and surely composed, few where the figure in the mind and in the ear are better matched. Consider, for example, the daring use of the same end-rhymes, half the total number on a single sound. Though the repetitions in the poem can be matched in other poets, the surprise comes with the rhyme in line 9, which is picked up again in 'height' and 'night.' This persistent echo might be merely curious if it didn't come in so many words that in idea and image play with the disturbing discovery of the poem: words and things that ought to mean 'good' turn out to be 'evil.'

The equations of rhyme and of i-sounds within lines (ten of them!) link the ingredients of this witches' broth in insidious confusions (white=blight=right(rite)=height=night). Also notice the surprising and apt use of the many double and triple stresses on successive syllables, from 'White heal-all' through 'snow-drop spider' to ‘white moth thither.' The weighting of rhythmic emphasis in these words, many of them evoking seemingly slight and charming images, directs attention to possible ugliness in ‘things so small.’

"Design," a perfectly executed sonnet, is Frost's greatest poem. The title refers to the idea, as William James writes in Pragmatism (1907), that "God's existence has from time immemorial been held to be proved by certain natural facts.... Such mutual fitting of things diverse in origin argued design, it was held; and the designer was always treated as a man-loving deity." The idea of a benign deity is mentioned, for example, in Matthew 10: 29, which teaches that God oversees every aspect of the world, even unto the fate of the most common bird: "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father" knowing it.

The idea of a perfectly created world also appears in Genesis 1: 31, where "God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." In "The Tyger" (1794) Blake admired the power of a God who could create, in his divine order, the most fierce and gentle hearts, and rhetorically asked: 'Did he smile his work to see? / Did he who made the Lamb make thee?"

To poets, the spider could represent different purposes in God's design. Whitman's "A Noiseless Patient Spider" is benign; but the Black Widow in Robert Lowell's "Mr. Edwards and the Spider" is a symbol of the damned soul. Frost, like Hardy in "An August Midnight," uses the spider to emphasize the evil aspect of God's design and offers, as Randall Jarrell notes, an "Argument from Design with a vengeance.... If a diabolical machine, then a diabolical mechanic ... in this little Albino catastrophe."

In "Design" the normally black spider and blue heal-all (the ironic name of the medicinal flower) are both wickedly white -- a play on Elinor's maiden name. The spider, fattened by a previous victim, holds a dead white moth like a rigid piece of satin cloth (or a rigid waxy corpse) in a coffin. These three characters of death and blight, like the elements of a witches' broth, are ready to begin the morning right -- or evil rite. Frost asks what evil force made the blue flower white and what malign power brought the spider into deadly conjunction with the moth. His dark answer suggests that this awful albino death-scene refutes Genesis, St. Matthew and the comforting belief recounted by Blake and William James: "What but design of darkness to appall? -- / If design govern in a thing so small." In the horrible but inevitable logic of "Design" Frost replaces God's design with the artist's.

"Design," arguably one of the best sonnets ever written by an American poet. It is a frightening poem, one that confronts the dire possibility that the universe is not only godless but that God is evil. In keeping with the Imagest tendencies in modern poetry, Frost centers the poem on a picture . . . .

The white spider — already a freak of nature - has landed on a white flower with a white moth in its grip. None of these three elements is normally white, which gives each of them an abstract eeriness. The fact that these elements are "mixed ready to begin the morning right, / Like the ingredients of a witches' broth --" is deeply ironic: indeed, the language parodies the language of breakfast cereal ads. What we get here is an image that combines death and blight. There is nothing life-enhancing about anything in this piece of nature.
Frost simply offers three haunting and unanswerable questions:

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall? --
If design govern in a thing so small.

The poem is in many ways the key to Frost's universe, a poem so perfect in its execution that one cannot imagine a word placed otherwise. Frost's tone is deftly controlled throughout, with the poet's serious point balanced nicely by the parodic language of the first stanza. Ever aware of the linguistic roots of words, Frost is inwardly winking when he uses the word "rigid" to modify "satin cloth." Likewise, at the end, he is certainly aware (as a former Latin teacher) that the word "appall" means "to make white" in its root sense. And Frost is delighting in the way he can wring an unexpected turn of meaning from the Classical argument from design.

Frost uses the rigidity of the sonnet form to present a formal philosophical problem. We are introduced, in the course of the octave, to 'Assorted characters of death and blight', three things the narrator happened to come across once: 'a dimpled spider, fat and white', a white flower, and, held up by the flower, 'a moth / Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth.' The three are introduced separately, assembled in synthesis to demonstrate the incongruity of their relationship, and then re-described in the last two lines of the octave for emphasis:

A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

Up to this point, the scientist-poet has only permitted himself the emotional shock of the elements presented for his examination and he accepts them as specimens at random. Frost tries to solve the problems they pose and, as he does so, the tension suddenly breaks, along with the rhyme-scheme. In a series of negatives and outraged rhetorical questions, he demands reasons for the strange combinations of existence. What is the 'design' behind all this, he asks. All he can summon up, by way of an answer, is the following:

What but design of darkness to appal? --
If design govern in a thing so small.

Far from solving the problem, this conclusion only exacerbates it. For the alternatives are either that the 'design' reflects some vast malevolent joke, or that the concept of 'design' is absurdly irrelevant -- in which case, the process of questioning in the sonnet is itself called into question. This, in effect, is the irresolution of 'For Once, Then, Something' returned with a vengeance, since on the borders of it now hovers a sense of fear. It is bad enough to believe that we are condemned to abide amidst uncertainties; it is even worse to suspect that those uncertainties harbor danger, that the universe is not only unknowable but treacherous.

However, like so much in Frost's poetry, this remains only a suspicion. Fear lurks beneath the surface of a poem like this, certainly: but, in other poems, Frost's playfulness, his willingness to entertain all kinds of doubts and possibilities leads him in the contrary direction -- not to transcendence of facts, perhaps, but to a wondering, joyful apprehension of their potential, to the sense that nature might after all be whispering secret, sympathetic messages to us.

It is not surprising that a poet should feel menaced by a comet or the ocean; these represent nature at its most massive, and might well be expected to instill a sense of human fragility. But, in the best known of the dark prototypical poems, Frost confronts nature on a much more local scale-indeed, the poem hinges on the diminutiveness of the natural emblem—and still reads in it one of his most chilling lessons. "Design" is a crucial, and multiply ironic, enactment of and commentary on the whole Emersonian outlook which lies behind Frost's method of making nature lyrics. It continually invokes, and yet simultaneously questions, the entire American literary tradition which authorizes the process of emblem reading. For a basic understanding of the poem one still cannot do better than to read Randall ]arrell's account; I want merely to add a few remarks about the sonnet as an emblem poem.

Structurally, "Design" is as clear a model of the American emblem poem as we could ask for, its movement "from sight to insight" reflected in the conventional division of the sonnet into octave and sestet and underlined by the typographical separation of the two parts. The encounter with the natural emblem in the octave is essentially Thoreauvian: the poet, evidently, is out wandering alone in nature, and the time is early morning. Many of Frost's darkest insights into the natural order occur at the emblematic moment when night descends; but the impact of the macabre scene in "Design" is made more acute by the bright expectations of what Thoreau calls "the most memorable season of the day, . . . the awakening hour", when the poet encounters these "Assorted characters of death and blight / Mixed ready to begin the rooming right."

The natural "characters" represent a startling apparent violation of natural order: a wildflower which would normally be blue, a spider which would likely be dark, and a moth which might be almost any color are all the same color—and, with Melvillian irony, that color is the white of purity or innocence. As Jarrell notes, much of the descriptive detail in these lines is intended to heighten the grim contrast between the potential innocence—from the "dimpled" spider to the "dead wings carried like a paper kite"—and the actual horror of the scene.

Such inverted innocence, in such a small, even delicate scene, serves only to render the message that Frost reads in this tableau all the more dismaying: the evident "design of darkness to appall." Even that brief formulation is steeped in irony.

As "The Onset" suggests, shaped whiteness—the whiteness of design—may ordinarily be heartening to Frost; it is the indefinite and formless whiteness of snow (as in "Desert Places"), of Melvillian chaos, which usually dismays. Here, however, the shaped whiteness of a small emblem turns out to be not the whiteness of normal design, but of "design of darkness"; its effect is to "appall" the observer, to make him turn pale or white with dread of such dark whiteness.

Were "Design" to end with its thirteenth line, it would be a powerful and ironic but relatively straightforward emblem poem. The final verse, however, threatens to call all in doubt—not just the evident lesson of natural darkness, but the entire epistemological basis of reading the book of nature. That line—"If design govern in a thing so small"—questions the result and method of the rest of the poem, and the presuppositions of emblem reading, in the way Frost regularly questions his inherited assumptions. Neither in the context of this poem nor in the context of Frost's whole canon, however, does the last line deny the omnipresence of design.

This sonnet might almost have been written as a characteristic reaction by Frost to what he would consider the excesses of Emersonian optimism, as for instance this serene assertion: "I am not impressed by solitary marks of designing wisdom; I am thrilled with delight by the choral harmony of the whole. Design! It is all design. It is all beauty". Frost is too Thoreauvian in his familiarity with natural fact, including its dismaying side, to accept so sweeping a concept of design.

In the poem's first thirteen lines, he simply extends the logic of the traditional argument from design; as Jarrell puts it, "If a watch, then a watch-maker; if a diabolical machine, then a diabolical mechanic". But the last line—"If design govern in a thing so small"—seems to threaten to undermine not just the previous lines of this sonnet, but Frost's entire "synecdochist" poetics—as well as a long and central tradition of American nature writing. Frost invokes just that tradition in the eleventh and twelfth lines of "Design": "What brought the kindred spider to that height, / Then steered the white moth thither in the night?" Frost's couplet, in other words, simultaneously rings in and questions the nineteenth-century American poetic tradition of providential design.

The original version of the last line, as reported by Thompson, reads: "Design, design! Do I use the word aright?" That question still lingers in the "If" of the revised final line. If we look at the poem as a whole, clearly design of some sort does "govern in a thing so small"—in the masterfully crafted sonnet itself, in its description in the octave which both heightens and ironizes the drama, in its sestet which simultaneously invokes and questions the tradition of the argument from design. The real question which the last line raises is whose design this is—whether that of God or nature or "darkness," on the one hand, or that of the observer, on the other. As, William James puts it in Pragmatism: "the abstract word 'design' is a blank cartridge.

It carries no consequences, does no execution. What design, and what designer? are the only serious questions." The implication for Frost, I think, is that the "design of darkness" or of nature or of God is the design made by the perceiver, by the poet. Only the human eye can make or find any design in the natural world. Though the narrator's role in the drama is intentionally and ironically minimized, it remains crucial in the two opening words of the poem: "I found". Like all revelation, all design "has been ours."

The last line of "Design" suggests, for a temperament as willful and feisty as Frost's, the occasional sense of the potential hostility and violence of the physical world, such as we see in "A Loose Mountain," "Once by the Pacific," and the first thirteen lines of "Design, " is ultimately less appalling than the threat of emptiness or indifference.

Works cited:

Frost and the Book of Nature.
American Poetry of the Twentieth Century
The Columbia History of American poetry

Robert Frost: A Biography by Jeffrey Meyers.
The Poetry of Robert Frost: Constellations of Intention by Reuben A. Brower READ MORE!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Air Pollution in Jakarta

Author's Note: The following research paper brings to the fore the menacing problem of hazardous air pollution plaguing & threatening the life of Jakarta residents. The environmental situation in Jakarta is indeed grave & crying for urgent attention. Although the observations & solutions to the problem of air pollution in this writeup are Jakarta specific, they are in a large measure true & applicable to several metropolitan cities in the developing world.

Air is the nectar of life without which life is unsustainable. Air pollution is one of the worst enemies of man. It occurs due to the contamination of air due to noxious gases and minute particulates of highly toxic substances that gravely endanger health. The combustion of gasoline and other hydrocarbon fuels in automobiles produces carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide and lead. The hazardous smoke let out by the polluting industries compounds the problem further. The unmindful use of insecticide and herbicide also contributes to air pollution. Contaminated air can cause breathing trouble, severe respiratory diseases, birth defects and even cancer. It is a slow poison that consumes humans slowly but surely.

Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia and happens to be one of the most polluted cities of the world. Once beautiful, it has lost its charm mainly due to its highly polluted air. This is how the world famous tour guide ‘Lonely Planet’ introduces Jakarta, “If you can stand its pollution, and if you can afford to indulge in its charms, then Jakarta is one of the region's most exciting metropolises. Consider Jakarta the 'big durian' - the foul-smelling exotic fruit that some can't stomach and others can't resist”.

Fig.1 Jakarta Profile Map, MEI.

High concentration of particulate matter, aerosol and dust in Jakarta makes the atmosphere heavy with haze. The levels of carbon monoxide, hydro carbon, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide in the air happen to be far higher than the permissible levels stipulated by World Health Organization. About 70 % of Jakarta air is contaminated by automobile pollutants and the rest of 30% air pollution comes from dangerous industrial emissions.

Jakarta is severely choked by smoke and carcinogenic gases emitted by innumerable vehicles that dot the city. There are more than 2.5 million motorbikes and above 3 million private cars, buses and taxis in Jakarta polluting the air on daily basis. This number is rising by the day. The visibility in Jakarta is poor even on a clear sunny day. “The major pollutants emitted from gasoline-fueled vehicles are CO, HC, NOx and lead” (Bakir). A pall of smoke and smog makes the air irritating and unhealthy. As a fall out, respiratory diseases have now become the number one killer in Jakarta and the surrounding areas.

Fig. 2. A Regular scene on Jakarta Roads, Albert Ludwig University Freidberg.

The problem of air pollution in Jakarta is directly related with the rapid increase of population over the past a few decades. The population of Jakarta in 1960 was just 1.2 million. It rose to 8.8 million in 2004 whereas the population of greater Jakarta or Jabotabek has swollen to 23 million. Indonesia as a whole happens to be the fourth largest populous country in the world. The unregulated industrialization and rapid economic growth in and around Jakarta has brought about a large influx of otherwise poor populace towards the capital region.

A large number of people daily come to Jakarta to work, as the per capita income of Jakarta is 70% more than the rest of Indonesia. As a result, Jakarta is burgeoning at the seams. The central city of Jakarta has an astonishing population concentration of more than 32000 people per square mile. The government of Indonesia has miserably failed to take measures to address the environmental issues related with a population explosion of this magnitude. The internal air quality in Jakarta homes is 5 to 50 times poorer than outside air in the absence of a positive replenishing cycle. The highly degraded quality of the air outside has a cascading effect on the indoor air in Jakarta.

Fig. 3.

The big Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 deeply affected the economy of Indonesia. In order to rejuvenate the industry and stop the economic downslide, the Indonesian government overlooked all environmental considerations. It promoted industry and enterprise by throwing all norms of environmental ethics to the winds. This can be called the great environmental hara-kiri committed by the Indonesian government. This environmental health of Jakarta was literally sacrificed on the altar of short term economic goals. The industry followed cheaper and highly questionable methods of production that had far reaching environmental ramifications. The air quality standards in Jakarta fell due to the wrong and shortsighted policies of the government.

Lack of government stability further contributed to the problem of air pollution in Jakarta. After the end of President Suharto’s rule in 1998, environmental pollution in Jakarta saw an upward trend. In 2002, President Megawati Soekarnoputri dissolved the Environmental Impact Control Agency without putting in place any solid strategic plan or authority to check air and environmental pollution. The Office of the State Minister for the Environment proved to be a toothless tiger without stringent law enforcement powers to stop pollution.

It is a universally known fact that trees are the lungs of Nature. They cleanse the air of its impurities and provide wholesome air and life-sustaining oxygen. While Indonesia blindly encouraged unbridled industrialization, it failed to stop massive illegal lumbering. Indonesia has 10 percent of the world's forest cover, and has the third largest tropical rain forest. This natural wealth could have played a major role in keeping Jakarta’s air pure and invigorating. Instead, each year Indonesia stupidly loses about 4 million hectares of forest cover due to rapid lumbering and uncontrolled forest fires. This loss of green cover is almost equivalent to the size of Switzerland per annum! Jakarta suffers from acute air pollution due to fast depleting forest cover. There is little fresh air to replace or replenish the poison emitted by millions of automobiles and countless industrial chimneys of Jakarta.

Air pollution is one of the biggest health hazards faced by Jakarta in the present time. The permissible level of TSP according to the WHO guidelines is 75 mg/ m3 whereas there are several parts in Jakarta where TSP level is at a high of 350mg/m3 . Each air polluting substance has a specific ill affect on human health.

Fig. 4. Major Air Pollutants and the Associated Health Hazards, ALU Freidberg.

Asthma attacks and bronchitis are the common diseases faced by the residents of Jakarta due to air contamination. In 1994, Air pollutant in Jakarta caused, among other illnesses, approximately 1,200 cases of premature mortality, 32 million cases of respiratory symptoms, and 464,000 cases of asthma attacks (Ostro). Respiratory Hospital Admissions (RHA) due to ambient sulphate and TSP levels has also been continually rising in Jakarta due to severe air pollution. In 1999, “The levels of the other pollutants were: carbon monoxide 71-111 ppm, lead 90 μg/m3, and maximum oxidants 0.159 ppm” (Honari). The total treatment cost of health problems associated with air pollutants was estimated to be approximately $500 million or approximately 0.02 per cent of Indonesia’s GDP in 1990. Shah observes, “Total TSP emissions in Jakarta are estimated at 96733 tons/year. Particulate matter of 10 micron or less (PM10) emissions total 41369 tons/year and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions are estimated at 43031 tons/year.”

Most of the vehicles used in Jakarta still run on conventional carburetors that consume a lot of energy and give out plenty of toxic fumes. Majority of these motorcycles have two stroke engines that cannot combust fuel as efficiently as a four stroke engine would do. Most cars in Jakarta don’t have catalytic converters and the result is higher air pollutant emissions in the air. Now, the things may change with a blanket ban on lead fuel in Jakarta. This will help the new cars to come pre fitted with catalytic converters and MPFI engines. This would indeed bring down the emission of air pollutants.

Fig. 5. Emission of Pollutants in Jakarta in 1999. NKLD Propinsi DKI Jakarta. 2000

It seems that the government of Indonesia has woken up to the problem of air pollution in Jakarta. The fact that Jakarta is literally sitting on an environmental time bomb cannot be ignored any further. If something drastic and concrete is not done now, it would be perhaps too late to set the clock back. Indonesian government has introduced several environment friendly programs like ‘1 Million Trees Campaign’ and ‘1Million Parks Campaign” etc. These plans are designed to enhance the natural green cover in Jakarta to offset the harm done by severe air pollution. Unfortunately, the progress on these schemes has been pretty slow. The ‘Blue Sky Program’ aims at bringing down air pollution by imposing certain control over the vehicular and industrial emissions. It also envisages aggressive social campaigns to bring about environmental awareness.

Jakarta must also improve its public transportation system considerably to check air pollution. Buses are the chief mode of public transport in Jakarta. Poor bus service, improper traffic management, absence of dedicated bus tracks have resulted in public’s reliance on private vehicles. This means much larger number of vehicles on the road. A robust public transport system must be put in place to alleviate Jakarta from the quagmire of air pollution. The idea of a monorail in Jakarta is also a positive step in the right direction.

This nonpolluting public mode of transport will have two lines; the Green line will exclusively cater to the commercial or business centers and the blue to a general route. The monorail will also reduce air pollution in Jakarta by augmenting the public transport system. The government of Indonesia has come up with Agenda 21, as a part of its Bus Management improvement plan, “Transportation strategies should reduce the need for motor vehicles by favouring high occupancy of public transport and providing safe bicycle- and footpaths” (Gunadi). The frequency and the punctuality of the bus service should increase; the fares should be reasonable and the journey comfortable. This would surely take plenty of vehicular load off the roads of Jakarta, whereby reducing air pollution considerably.

The government must realize that pollution is anti economic growth in the long run. Katherine Bolt says, “health-related economic losses may have neutralized a significant part of the income growth that developing countries have managed to achieve.” Resosudarmo adds, “These illnesses cause urban households to spend money on medical care and also reduce the effectiveness of labour in urban production activities.” The Inspection and Maintenance Program (I&M) largely depends upon private players and contractors. Without proper surveillance by the law enforcement agencies, this program can very well fail to achieve its desired goal. Jakarta needs an all embracive environment plan that achieves its goal without seriously hampering the commercial progress of a developing country like Indonesia.

The World Bank emphasizes that the Indonesian government should, “give highest priority to encouraging the adoption of "clean technology", and especially waste minimization initiatives, to reduce pollution loads at the least cost while simultaneously enhancing industrial efficiency and competitiveness.” Indonesia will have to carefully weigh the economic cost of air pollution against the financial earnings achieved through a polluting industry. It is simple economics. Indonesia should promote the industry that is technologically sound and environment friendly with incentives and awards. At the same time, it should shut down the polluting industry that is counter-productive. This will indeed require some rare grit and sincerity of purpose on part of the Indonesian government.

Works Cited

Bolt, Katherine. “Minute Particles, Major Problems: New Policies Show Promise for Saving Millions of Lives by Clearing the Air in the Developing World”. Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy. Volume: 16. Issue: 3. Publication Year: 2001.

Gunadi, P. “Urban Management: Improving the System of Bus Management for Jakarta”.

Honari, Morteza. Health Ecology: Health, Culture, and Human-Environment Interaction. London: Routledge. 1999.

Indonesia: Environment and Development. New York: World Bank. 1994.

Jakarta. ‘World guide’. Lonely Planet. 9 May 2007. <>

Copyright: Academic


Friday, September 17, 2010

Eating Disorders Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Eating disorder is a term commonly associated with a kind of mental disease that makes the victim’s eating habits erratic and abnormal. The chief cause of such a disorder can either be due to some deep psychological scar or because of an obsession to conform to the set standards of beauty as laid down by a capitalistic society. These flawed standards of beauty are a crafty creation of a highly profit driven, unscrupulous fashion, clothing and cosmetics industry. These doubtful parameters of attractiveness are repeatedly drummed into the ears of a credulous audience by an equally irresponsible and unprincipled media. The majority of this impressionable audience & victims happens to be youngsters.

The person suffering from an eating disorder puts boundless premium on looking good rather than feeling good or healthy. For such a person, the food loses its sanctity and its real meaning. Experimentation with food intake, in order to achieve abnormal results, plays untold havoc with an individual’s health. Once started, the victim keeps falling into a quagmire of psychological tizzy and loses control over one’s normal eating habits. According to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, an estimated eight million Americans suffer from eating disorders, 95 percent of whom are between the ages of 12 and 25. This eating disorder is more common among females because the pressure to look beautiful works much more on them than men. Compulsively driven by a mania to look slim and trim, the victim tends to neglect her health and starves herself beyond limit or eats too less than required.

In some cases, an affected person may indulge in excessive bouts of eating followed by a purging session and a gnawing feeling of guilt. One may also develop a deep aversion to food; thereby distancing oneself from something that sustains life itself. This eating disorder leads to acute depression and one rapidly loses his emotional and physical well being. Some people use food or the control of food, in an attempt to offset or forget certain distressing feelings or emotions that would over-whelm them otherwise.

It is incumbent upon us to sit up and look at the problem of eating disorder as primarily a fall out of wrong social values and policies. This disorder is largely caused by social factors and can only be cured or checked by eliminating those precipitating negative factors in society. The media has created a highly distorted image of a perfect woman who is normally shown to be wafer thin with real skinny looks. While the society looks down upon the obese, it heaps loads of admiration on one losing weight rapidly. This kind of a positive response goads a person to continue with crash dieting. Dr. Maria Felix-Ortiz points out, “Eating disorders require intensive treatment because the behavior and associated weight changes are rewarded by significant others.”Wow, you're losing a lot of weight!" is usually a powerful compliment.”

Among all eating disorders, Anorexia nervosa is the most dangerous and complex eating disorder. Robbed of one’s ability to see things in correct perspective, one severely misinterprets one’s appearance. The fear psychosis is so strong that the person repeatedly subjects herself to self examination and self evaluation. Each round of self query can leave one feeling worse than before as satisfaction with one’s self image practically eludes the victim. That is why, many girls suffering from anorexia weigh as much as 85% or less than what is developmentally expected of their age and height. At such a point, one is not expected to live or survive.

Anorexia has resulted in an alarming number of deaths among girls between 15 to 24 years of age. Anorexia’s mortality rate is 12 times higher than all diseases put together in this age group of girls, in general population. Some sports like athletics, gymnastics and swimming presuppose a perfect body as a prerequisite. This makes athletes equally vulnerable to eating disorders.Daniel Batchelor writes, “As athletes, anorectic can maintain a high performance level, for a time, but also have serious internal problems…. a world-class female runner …. she had no menstrual cycle and experienced frequent episodes of dizziness.”

The symptoms of Anorexia are distinct. The person becomes excessively even abnormally selective about food, obsessively worried about the calorie count and too reluctant to eat or eat at all. The situation further aggravates when one indulges in over exercise which one’s already weakened health can ill afford. The obsession with one’s physical appearance makes one lose sight of real priorities in life. Health, studies, parents, friends and relatives take a back seat. The victim keeps inching towards an avoidable and a highly unfortunate early end.

Due to negative social pressures and a person’s knee-jerk reaction to them, the reality gets blurred and the vision gets distorted. Anorexia makes one hallucinated about one’s weight. One tends to feel over-weight even when one happens to be dangerously under-weight! This grave misconception about one’s own physical image leads to poor self-esteem and intense fear of gaining weight. The person wrecks her energy by tormenting herself through repeated self-evaluation and self-assessment.

It is yet not very clear that what exactly causes this complex phenomenon of eating disorder. Although, it is widely believed that it is a combination of psychological, genetic, social and family factors that contribute to this disorder. Aimee Liu, author of "Gaining: The Truth about Life after Eating Disorders," uses the metaphor of the gun to explain eating disorder. She says, “"Eating disorders are like the explosion of a gun. Genes form the gun and our culture, society, media and family values load it. Experience of unbearable distress and emotions pulls the trigger,” The result is as fatal and dangerous as a gun can be! The role of social and cultural factors in precipitating eating disorder is indisputable. Bulimia nervosa causes symptoms of excessive eating which is also known as binge-eating disorder. Each binge-eating session brings an acute feeling of guilt that gets relieved to some extent through purging.

Self-induced vomiting and misuse of laxatives act as compensatory actions. Sadly, most of these young and adolescent females possess normal weight as per their height and age and yet fail to feel good about it. Their yardstick to measure their well being ceases to be the doctor’s health chart. They gauge their personalities as per the parameters set by much hyped beauty pageants and fashion shows. They try to compete with the hard to match looks of waif thin models with extremely slender bodies.I am convinced that eating disorder is psychological and it is not a mental disease. There is a difference. Psychological problems can be addressed with proper understanding and counseling.

I strongly believe that eating disorder is curable if right steps are taken. The cure doesn’t lie in the realm of medical science. I have a feeling that there is a vested interest in dubbing eating disorder as a mental disease or a genetic problem. By calling it a genetic problem, we shut doors on its otherwise possible cure. There are plenty of doctors who are as callous and money-minded as their counterparts in the fashion or cosmetic industry. They are making huge amounts of money in the name of curing this ‘disease’ through antidepressants and sedatives. The real cure of this disease lies in a much needed corrective on society itself.

The fashion world deliberately parades unrealistically lean and thin female models. These models do not only send out an image of ultimate beauty but also of ultimate success. The present day youth is very career minded and misinterprets these images on various emotional and psychological levels. The innocent adolescent youth forgets that these images are ‘make believe’ and have been deliberately conjured up by an avaricious business world that wants to keep youngsters always on tenterhooks. This is their ultimate guarantee of doing brisk business.

Nanci Hellmich writes, “The promotion of the thin, sexy ideal in our culture has created a situation where the majority of girls and women don't like their bodies," says body-image researcher Sarah Murnen, professor of psychology at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.” Americans “pay out of pocket for a $33 billion commercial diet industry--and keep getting fatter”. While the “Obesity Research, shows that the nation is spending about $75 billion a year on weight-related disease.” The commercial world works in tandem in a sinister manner.

The gullible youth only sees what meets the eye. They fail to understand that most of these super models and mega stars lead a highly stressful and tense life. No wonder quite a few models themselves suffer from eating disorders and are dying young in desperation to remain stick slim. There have also been instances when these ultra slim, under nourished model collapsed and passed away on the ramp itself. This should give one a peep into the terrible reality of being a model. This should also remind the young girls about the inherent danger of making these models their role-models. The government must impose a complete embargo on such fashion shows that play a catalytic role in promoting eating disorders!

The business world promotes beauty in more than one way. Even for a modest job of secretary or a personal assistant, the employers tend to weigh beauty over brains. This sends out very wrong signal. This ignites a dangerous shift of emphasis from education and learning to dieting and unnatural sculpturing of the body. This trend in the industry also contributes to the eating disorder and psychological problems. The society must learn to honor real merit. This alone will prevent eating disorder & its highly dangerous harmful effects.

Self- help and positive auto suggestion can really help in the cure of eating disorder. CMT or Compassionate Mind Training is another good option. Michele Kirsch explains Ken Goss’s method of self alleviation, “CMT helps people to develop the ability to soothe themselves at times of emotional distress. For example, binging is often used as a way of promoting a positive or neutral emotional state to avoid anxiety, anger or shame. If people can activate the self-soothing system they won't need to engage in binging to manage difficult feelings."

One should never work against Nature and that goes for the body too. One should never wage a war against one’s own body. I fully agree with Mary Ray Worley who says, “It’s a great system, really. In my case I’m convinced that as determined as I have been to become thin, my body has always been more determined to save me from starvation. My body is more stubborn than I am. Amazing. So I stopped dieting and began to make peace with food and with my body. I slowly stopped being afraid of food.” Just listen to your body and you would be safe!

The notorious American dream does seem to play a role here too. In this utilitarian world based upon crass materialistic considerations, success is the ultimate barometer of one’s position in society. This myth presupposes, “The Creator made man a success-machine ….and failure is as abnormal to him as discord to harmony” (Marsden 27). This success exclusively pertains to material success in life. The American dream heavily banks upon the flawed concept of being ‘well-liked’ rather than anything concrete or substantial.

I am reminded of Arthur Miller’s modern tragedy entitled ‘Death of A Salesman.’ Willy Loman, the tragic hero and protagonist of the play speaks out, “that’s the wonder of this country…..that a man can end with diamonds here on the basis of being well-liked” (Salesman 86). Such erroneous thinking leads Willy to a tragic death but no diamonds. Most of these young and adolescent people who suffer from eating disorder too desperately seek to be ‘well-liked,’ with equally dangerous consequences. The society gives a vivid impression that it doesn’t like fat or obese people. The stigma attached to obesity plunges people into eating disorder. Amanda Spake writes, “Prejudice against the obese stems from the widely held belief that getting fat--and certainly staying fat--results from a failure of willpower, a condition that could be remedied if obese people simply made a personal choice to eat less.”

The youngsters must be properly educated by their parents and teachers about the hollowness of such a faulty dream. The parents should also stop putting too much of emphasis on high achievement and performance. They must become good role models for their kids. They must spend quality time with their kids and share their problems. They are the ultimate guarantee of their emotional and psychological well being. If they nurture their kids well, they can certainly save them from any disorder whatsoever; be it emotional disorder or eating disorder.

Works Cited

Batchelor, Daniel. “Anorexia Nervosa in the Athlete”. Dynamic Chiropractic Huntington .
26 Mar 2007.
Felix-Ortiz, Maria. “Studies Suggest Eating Disorders could be Genetic and Biological”
San Antonio Express-News . 18 April 2007.
Hellmich, Nancy. “Do thin models warp girls' body image?” USA Today .
26 Sept. 2006.
Kirsch, Michele. “Be kind to yourself and cure your eating disorder” The Times .
18 April 2007.
Liu, Aimee. Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders . New York: Warner Books,
Marsden, Orison. Entering Business . New York: 1903.
Miller, Arthur. Death of A Salesman . Penguin, 1975.
Spake, Amanda.”Rethinking weight”. U.S. News & World Report . 5 may 2007.

Copyright: Academic

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hernando Cortes and the Conquest of Mexico

Hernando Cortes was a Spanish explorer and conquistador who landed on the coast of Mexico in 1519 in order to conquer it. Cortes description of the city ranges from its vibrant architecture to the horrible medieval customs and practices followed by the Aztecs.

He writes, “This great city of Tenochtitlan is built on the salt lake, and no matter by what road you travel there are two leagues from the main body of the city to the mainland. There are four artificial causeways leading to it, and each is as wide as two cavalry lances.” At the time, the city of Tenochtitlan, the erstwhile capital of Mexico was home to over 100,000 people and one of the largest cities in the world.

By the time Cortes arrived, the great market was attracting up to 60,000 people daily. Cortes’ description of this Aztec city was that of a well planned city with canals dug throughout the city for easy transportation of goods and people.

The Spaniards called this Aztec city, “the Venice of the New World”. Cortes admires the wide straight roads connected with canals that the Aztecs crossed paddling their canoes. After the fall of the Toltec civilization the Aztecs were forced to occupy marshy area around lake Texcoco.

The way they were able to convert their disadvantageous beginning into a powerful empire is a subject of Cortes’ admiration and surprise. The shallow lake bed was converted by the Aztecs into highly productive gardens formed by piling up mud from the lake bottom to make artificial islands.

Cortes praises the drainage system of the city and the ability of Aztecs to build bridges over canals and rivers. While Cortes focuses on the tall buildings in the city and magnificent temples he also focuses on the gory description of the terrible sight of human sacrifices that took place in those temples.

This, Hernando Cortes offered as a good justification for the conquest of Mexico. He said since the native people observed degrading and horrific customs, including human sacrifice, it was essential to conquer them and convert them to Christianity. READ MORE!

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Europeans: Voyages of Discovery and Expansion

Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World in 1492 opened up a sea of opportunities for European countries. Portugal and Spain already had vast experience in colonization and conquest through various sea routes. Their ship navigation skills proved to be an added advantage. Driven by a strong desire to colonize the New World, they were the first European countries to create vast colonial empires in the western hemisphere.

The said age was indeed an age of unprecedented exploration, discovery and expansion. The voyages were the voyages of discovery and bold white expansion. European overseas expansion led to the rise of colonial- empires and great political and economic revival. Spanish conquest of the New World was driven by the three 'G's—gold, glory, and gospel. The other European countries followed suit.

The European economy was dependent on gold and silver. Its severe shortage had brought about a recession in the European economy. Hence, the need to explore the outer world was imperative.

The English, French, and Dutch were comparatively slower to start; but in no way less interested or aggressive in claiming their share in the pie. The Spanish, Portuguese and French colonies sent home so much of wealth in the form of gold, silver, furs and sugar that it substantially stimulated the economy of Europe. This prompted other European countries also to see and seek westward.

The invention of heavy and technically sound ships like Carrack and highly maneuverable ships like Caravel in 15th century allowed the Portuguese and Spanish explores to make long and difficult voyages across the Atlantic and along the coastline of West Africa.

The discovery of the New World had set the stage for an unprecedented upheaval and action. A real life high drama was waiting to be played out in two distinctly different worlds; one Old and the other New. The Old World prepared itself to launch a bold onslaught on the New World to establish its supremacy and ownership over the vast riches of the new territories. The sense of mystery and adventure beckoned the explorers to embark upon newer expeditions. READ MORE!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Martin Luther and Disagreement with the Catholic Church

Martin Luther rediscovered the Biblical Gospel and conclusively broke away from the Roman Catholic Church due to strong disagreement over several things which he felt were anti-faith or anti-Christ. His chief difference of opinion with Catholic Church was over the question, “How one is saved and enters heaven?”

Martin Luther was convinced that man can surely attain redemption by dint of his unflinching faith in Jesus as a Savior. Faith alone saves. Whereas the Catholic Church maintained that mere faith in Jesus cannot save a man unless his faith is completed by love and good deeds. Now, how much love and goodness a man must have to qualify for salvation was unknown.

Another big disagreement that Martin Luther had with the Catholic Church was about the question, “Who is the highest authority in Christianity?” The Catholic Church believed in absolute authority and supremacy of the Pope of Rome. Martin Luther was totally convinced that Christ alone is the head of Christianity and the ultimate authority indeed.

Martin Luther rejected the claim of the Catholic Church that the Pope is divinely appointed head of Christendom. Luther was strongly opposed to pope Boniface VIII’s claim in the bull, "Unam Sanctum" that no one can be saved unless he submits to the Roman Pope. Arbitrary and unlimited powers had made the Catholic Church corrupt and morally bankrupt; Martin Luther strongly raised his voice against this corruption, much to the chagrin and anger of the Catholic Church.

He nailed his 95 theses on the gate of the Church of Wittenberg, accusing the Catholic Church of corruption and heresy. This bold action on his part is deemed as the real beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant movement spread quickly because people were sick and tired of the papal corruption and the idea that God could be realized through a direct communication arrested their imagination and gave them a lot of peace of mind that evaded them till now.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Interpersonal Communication: Article Analysis

Greg Roper’s article, “Managing Employee Relations: Develop Interpersonal Communications and Conflict-Management Skills” underlines the importance of cultivating congenial relationship with employees in order to avoid an unnecessary conflict.

The article emphasizes that in this modern age of cut-throat competition and global enterprise, there is no room for any confrontation and the resulting loss of business and face. In the light of this fact there is an imperative need for the business managers to learn the fine art of interpersonal communication and resolution of avoidable conflicts before they actually happen.

The most striking feature of the said article is Roper's strong emphasis on the assignment of a brand new role to the business managers.

In the modern times, the role of the business manager has been rewritten from the scratch. They must shed their ego and come down from the high pedestal they spoke from in the past. The age old concept of ‘distance breeds respect’ has been replaced by a pressing need for strong interpersonal relationship and interaction with the employees.

This provides the managers with an opportunity to know their employees better and get familiar with the ground realities about their business. Such interpersonal communication fosters a positive work culture and spirit of solid team work.

The article makes an interesting revelation that how a successful business manager or CEO can fire and inspire the imagination of his employees by dint of his intimate knowledge of their aspirations and problems. This won’t be easy to achieve without strong interpersonal relationship.

The article underlines the importance and need for an open, sincere and candid communication between the employees and the employer, based upon mutual respect and rationality.

Roper, Greg. (2005, May). Managing Employee Relations: Develop Interpersonal Communications and Conflict-Management Skills to Better Manage Employee Relations.